10/19/2008 - Ski patrol gets real for television
Reality show: Blue Mountain group to star in November.
By John J. Moser | Of The Morning Call
When the head of programming for the premier producers of
reality television decided last year to tell the story of the
National Ski Patrol -- the group that keeps slopes safe -- he felt he
found his ideal location in Blue Mountain Ski Area near Palmerton.
Jeff Jenkins, executive vice president for Bunim/Murray Productions knew
the area from filming a 2005 episode of ''The Simple Life'' with Paris
Hilton and Nicole Richie at Lehigh Valley International Airport.
But Jim Dailey, Blue Mountain's ski patrol director, wasn't sure.
''We weren't afraid of what we do and who we are,'' Dailey said, noting
that Blue's 183-member Ski Patrol is among the largest in the East. ''We
do a lot of great things for people.''
''But,'' he said, ''we also see a lot of pain and suffering.'' Add to
reality TV's seeming need to inject controversy into its shows, and
Dailey said he had ''an awful lot of skepticism and reservations.''
But pep talks from Jenkins -- he told Dailey his father and sister were
Ski Patrol members and he wanted to portray the group as heroes --
persuaded Dailey. And for six weeks last winter, a film crew daily
fitted Blue Mountain's patrollers with microphones and followed them.
The result is six episodes of ''Ski
Patrol,'' a truTV (formerly Court TV) network show that debuts 8
p.m. Monday with scenes from Crystal Mountain, Wash., the only other
resort featured. Blue Mountain episodes are scheduled to start Nov. 10
and run through Nov. 24. There also will be four Internet episodes,
''In meeting Jim Dailey and his team of patrollers, I was struck by
their amazing dedication and knowledge,'' said Jenkins, whose company is
credited with starting the reality TV craze with MTV's ''The Real
''They're an excellent team of professionals, and I knew an audience
would enjoy getting a peek into their world.''
Robyn Hutt, truTV's senior vice president of current programming , said
that was accomplished. ''It's really well done because of the access
Blue Mountain provided,'' Hutt said. ''That really allows viewers to
experience the world of the ski patroller.''
Review episodes that show only Crystal Mountain episode synopses from
truTV indicate Blue Mountain stories include ''a missing skier lost in
the frigid elements,'' one who's ''in danger of losing a limb,'' a
chairlift breakdown that ''forces a difficult and dangerous midair
evacuation'' and ''a badly injured boy whose father must make an
Dailey, also Blue's director of marketing, said he wasn't concerned
about the show focusing on injuries -- he said skiers know there's ''an
inherent risk,'' and thrill and danger are part of the sport's appeal.
He said camera crews were discreet and ''had very good taste.''
There were three crews: at the summit, at the base and skiing and
snowboarding with patrol crews. Experienced in reality TV, all were
unobtrusive and ''really became flies on the wall,'' Dailey said.
He's contractually prohibited from detailing episodes, but Dailey said
the crew arrived on a busy weekend and was quickly in action on the
first day. That's reflected in the start of Blue Mountain's first
episode, he said.
''I think it gives a very realistic picture of what we do,'' Dailey
said. While the show creates story lines -- such as father-daughter
patrollers being led on a ''wild chase'' by ''reckless speeders'' -- it
didn't sensationalize, he said.
Dailey said Blue Mountain became involved when he replied to a September
2007 e-mail seeking a resort site for the show. The e-mail said it would
be like truTV's ''Beach Patrol'' -- though ''not as gritty'' -- and
follow National Ski Patrol members as they dealt with slope infractions,
injuries and emergencies.
''We were looking for another action show that could provide a window in
a unique world,'' truTV's Hutt said .
About 250 resorts replied. Dailey said the deal-maker for Blue Mountain
was getting editorial approval of episodes. It turns out it didn't need
it -- Dailey said the only changes the resort made were correcting names
He said he also got clearance from the National Ski Patrol -- it also
had editorial approval -- and waivers from area ambulance services and
''We were blessed by how much cooperation we got,'' Dailey said.
The resort also had to get signed releases from patrol members -- almost
all signed; about half made the show, Dailey said -- and from patrons.
Those who didn't sign had their scenes cut or faces blurred.
Blue Mountain Ski Patrol member Susie Molnar of Moore Township says she
was ''very hesitant'' after a 2002 appearance on the reality show
''Trading Spaces'' left her dissatisfied.
''I sort of knew TV's goals aren't always the same as your goals,''
Molnar said. ''I wasn't interested in another show overplaying it.'' She
said ''Trading Spaces'' told her ''controversy makes good TV'' and she
wondered how far truTV ''would go to make a good show.''
But she said was persuaded by Dailey, who called Molnar one of the
resort's ''star patrollers'' and said it would be hard to do without
her. As it turned out, Molnar, who is on the crew that removes riders
from stalled chairlifts, is shown doing that in one episode.
''I was impressed,'' she said. ''It was a good portrayal of the ski
Dailey said most patrons had no such reservations. Signs posted
notifying skiers they were being filmed drew lots of attention, and even
some rule-breakers stopped by the ski patrol were nicer while being
filmed. ''People actually thanked us for writing them tickets,'' he
Blue Mountain is contracted for a second season of ''Ski Patrol'' if
ratings justify it.
''I think that's further down the road,'' said truTV's Hutt. ''But ...
we're anticipating the series will do well. Hopefully, we will do
Producer Jenkins said the show turned out ''absolutely better than I
''The patrol there was very generous in allowing access into their
world,'' he said. ''And showing the challenges they go through -- from
reuniting a child with their parent to dealing with hotdoggers to
serious injuries -- in making it a safe place to ski.''
National Ski Patrol:
Founded in 1938, the nonprofit group, based in Colorado, has more than
26,000 members in more than 600 chapters. Its mission is education, but
it also provides outdoor emergency care and rescue.
Ski Patrol: With 183 members, it's among the largest in the East.
Responded to 1,605 incidents in the 2006-07 season -- almost two-thirds
dealing with snowboarders. It also reunites lost children with parents,
evacuates stalled ski lifts, helps stranded skiers, escorts course
groomers, retrieves runaway or dropped equipment, trains candidates.
Patrollers are the last ones off the mountain each night, riding lifts
and skiing each trail to direct patrons to the lodges.
Injuries: About 10 times a season, medical helicopters fly Blue Mountain
patrons to trauma centers. About 150 people a season leave by ambulance.
More are injured but leave by car or bus.
Part of Ski Patrol's charter is to promote snow sports and safety, and
James Dailey, Blue Mountain's Ski Patrol director, says that was a
factor in Blue Mountain's decision to participate in the TV show. While
Blue Mountain's squad is so popular it turns people away, nationally the
group's membership is aging, and with truTV reaching 91 million U.S.
homes, Dailey said he thought the show could be a recruiting tool.
Video Footage available ... Click on link below
John J. Moser - The Morning Call 10-19-2008
Downed Beginner –
Premieres Wed, November 5 at 10P
A skier attempting a jump from a 15 foot
cliff landed on a rock and is bleeding
profusely from a massive laceration. But
patrol’s job getting him off the mountain
gets even harder when a storm rolls in,
leaving the access road blocked and the
helicopter unable to land. Then later,
patrol must navigate a toboggan rescue on
the face of a 2000 foot vertical drop, a
downed beginner is abandoned by his friends
and one patroller hangs up his skis.
Break a Leg –
Premieres Wed, November 5 at 10:30P
A hit and run on the mountain has a young
girl in critical condition, and the patrol
on an all out manhunt. And later, getting a
little boy down the mountain becomes even
more difficult when patrol learns he’s
claustrophobic, one of the best skiers
Crystal has ever seen drops in for a
surprise run, and one girl’s twisted leg is
a laughing matter – for her friend!
The Great Chase –
Premieres Wed, November 12 at 10P
A nasty fall leaves a young boy's leg
horribly twisted, snowboarding punks wreak
havoc on the mountain, and reckless speeders
lead a father-daughter Ski Patrol team on a
wild chase on the slopes. TV-PG-L
The Final Test –
Premieres Wed, November 12 at 10:30P
The search for a deadly weapon has the
mountain on edge, a call hits close to home
when a patroller's daughter is in trouble,
and a year of training comes down to the
final test for two patrol candidates.
Chairway to Heaven
Premieres Wed, November 19 at 10P
There's tension in the air when a chairlift
breakdown forces a difficult and dangerous
midair evacuation, a fight in the lift line
could lead to an arrest, and the search is
on for a hit-and-run snowboarder.
Need for Speed –
Premieres Wed, November 19 at 10:30P
Patrollers race against the clock as they
search for a missing skier lost in the
frigid elements, a boarder is warned about
speeding but refuses to learn his lesson,
and the patrol tends to a skier who's in
danger of losing of a limb. TV-PG-L
Who Are You? –
Premieres Wed, November 26 at 10P
It's the women's time to shine as they
respond to a blizzard of emergencies,
including a badly injured boy whose father
must make an agonizing decision. Plus, a
boarder with memory loss has the patrol
trying to piece together a puzzle.
Panic at the Ski Slope
Premieres Wed, November 26 at 10:30P
A panic attack on the mountain has one girl
stopped dead in her tracks. Then patrollers
drop their skis and pitch in to help with a
car accident and a potential broken neck.
Plus, one drunk skier isn't happy to hear
that it's last call. TV-PG-L